Does hooliganism need to be tempered?

There’s a saying that you may have heard of before.

‘There’s always one bad egg’.

Whilst for the most part, this is true, it shouldn’t mean that we have to accept it and move on.

When it comes to football fans, the saying remains relevant. Every club will have those that don’t care for crossing the line between friendly rivalry and genuine hate for one another.

We don’t even need to look at seasons gone by to find examples of when this occurs.

Aston Villa and Birmingham City are fierce rivals and this season, they faced off against each other in two West Midlands derbies in the English second division.

Villa claimed bragging rights in both contests, running out 4-2 winners at home in November and 1-0 winners at St. Andrews in March.

But the second match brought about one of the most disgusting acts we have ever seen on a football field.

Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish, with his back turned, was attacked by a Birmingham fan and copped a wild right haymaker that sent him crashing to the floor.

Fortunately, not only was Grealish unharmed by the attack, but he didn’t get up and try to exact revenge on the fan. The incident was quickly brought to a halt when Villa players and ground stewards stepped in and restrained him.

Grealish had the last laugh, scoring the winner and seeing his side home as victors. But it was a dark day for football, showcasing that some idiots that we thought were a thing of the past had slipped through the cracks.

Two more recent instances took place in the Champions League semi finals. After Ajax’s 1-0 win against Tottenham, some Spurs fans were seen throwing punches and beer bottles at Ajax fans in the middle of a London street.

Similarly, a few thousand kilometres west in beautiful Barcelona, some locals were attacked by Liverpool fans who, inexplicably, began dumping them into a nearby fountain.

Perhaps the most disgusting act of hooliganism seen this season was from the Southampton vs Cardiff City fixture earlier this year.

The match took place very soon after the extremely tragic death of Cardiff City signing Emiliano Sala, who died on a plane flight to Cardiff from former club, Nantes in France.

Sala’s death brought the football world together in mourning but for some, it was merely a chance to tear it open again.

In this video, a Southampton fan can be seen making plane gestures to the travelling Cardiff fans, a deplorable act which was met with much criticism online. Southampton have vowed to ban the fans who made these gestures.

Now, there’s no problem with being passionate about your soccer club. There’s also no problem with having fun on an away trip. But it’s these moments when people seem to just want to create problems and when that happens, it’s not good for anyone.

Granted, these hooligans don’t represent their club’s entire fanbase, but they do represent their club. These Liverpool fans can be seen laughing and mocking the local people of Barcelona and whilst they may feel they’ve done nothing wrong, they’re contributing to the image that their club has across the globe.

This isn’t solely aimed at these Liverpool fans either. Other clubs certainly do it and the same thing occurs to them.

Hooliganism can positively contribute to the soccer image across the globe. When done right.

There will always be one, two or maybe more who feel the need to commit such condemnable acts. But if clubs can start taking more serious action against these people, like Southampton did, it will demotivate those thinking of doing something similar.

It will show the club in a more positive light, show that they don’t stand for such acts and in general, it will allow hooliganism to adapt to the now and become, again, a more positive influence on soccer society.

All good things take time. But the more times we see such incidents, the more we wish we could hit the fast forward button into a time when these acts occur less.

Caelum Ferrarese is a Senior journalist with Soccerscene. He reports widely on micro policy within Australasia and industry disruptions at grassroots level.

$200 million announced for women’s sport: All the credit but not full reward

Matildas vs Sweden FWWC 2023

Following the record-breaking FIFA Women’s World Cup played in Australia, the Federal Government has announced $200 million to women’s sport under their newly unveiled Play Our Way scheme.

The new program will aim to improve women’s sport across the nation helping to bring about much needed female tailored infrastructure and improve access to women’s sport generally as participation demand sees huge increases in the wake of the global competition.

The scheme will be open to all women’s sports across the nation, something that has led to much criticism from football fans who see it as an appropriation of football’s achievement for the benefit of other already better funded codes. However, the government expects football to be the major beneficiary as demand following the cup to participate in women’s football has skyrocketed.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese thanked the Matildas and expressed the importance of their historic run for all women’s sport when explaining the funds cross sport nature.

“The Matildas have given us a moment of national inspiration; this is about seizing that opportunity for the next generation, investing in community sporting facilities for women and girls around Australia,” Albanese said in a statement.

“We want women and girls everywhere in Australia to have the facilities and the support to choose a sport they love.”

The Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson met this announcement with some criticism.

“The passion for the sport is there, the players are there. It’s giving them a fair chance … to make sure there’s investment in grassroots football so more can play and stay in the game for longer. Making sure there’s pathways for every single player. Make sure the facilities are there to play. It comes down to investment,” he told media.

Although the federal announcement is not an allotment reserved just for football this does not mean that all the recently announced funding is so broad. In fact, the NSW government has committed $10 million just for football “at all levels” to act as a “legacy” of their hosting of the Cup and South Australia has promised $28 million to female sport in general, with $10 million reserved just for football.

The announcement was also a chance for the Federal Government to announce their exploration of new anti-siphoning laws that will aim to make more major sporting events in the coming years available via free-to-air TV. The report into these laws comes as a response to the Matildas’ semi-final against England being the most watched show since TV ratings began.

These announcements are clearly a huge victory for women’s sport in Australia and for consumers. However, there are clearly questions that rightful should be raised regarding the targeting of this funding and if credit is being given where credit is due.

It is indisputable that the nature of football itself was a key factor in financial and viewer success of Cup so why isn’t it getting to have the majority share of funding for the industry it is creating? In fact, football has often suffered this kind of slight despite participation in it being twice as large as Australian Rules football, netball, or cricket.

Therefore, we do welcome and applaud the government’s commitment to improving gender equality in sport, however in defence of football we disagree with the Matildas washing happening for the benefit of the other codes as it should not be used to side-line the game that helped it happen.

This is not advocating that this should be another battle in the code wars between football and the traditional major codes. Instead, it’s advocating that there is indeed a time for investment for everyone but when one sport does so much for the sporting landscape – it’s a matter of respect for them that they get to enjoy an unshared moment in the funding limelight.

Hence, as per Sam Kerr’s words following the semi-final – “We need funding in our development. We need funding in our grassroots. We need funding everywhere.”

Why one state premier’s mindset must be replicated across the board

Peter Malinauskas Labor Government

On Tuesday, before the Matildas took part in the heartbreaking loss to England in the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023, we had already seen the enormous support across all sporting codes.

From record viewing numbers, to cross-code collaboration allowing Melbourne Cricket Ground patrons the chance to watch the Matildas before a Carlton and Melbourne AFL match, this is the momentum that will help shape the future of football in Australia.

Until now, football has been well behind in available funding, despite being an extremely high participated sport in Australia.

One state that has already taken swift action to build on a tournament that has seen the first men’s or women’s Australian side to reach the World Cup semi-finals is the Peter Malinauskas Labor Government in South Australia.

In a sign of what needs to eventuate for the game to grow in Australia, they have committed $28 million to dedicated female sporting facilities.

The Government is set to deliver $18 million for grant programs over the next three years that will improve female sporting facilities and participation.

In addition, $10 million of the money will be quarantined for soccer, as Football South Australia will chip in to match the grants dollar for dollar through funding sources that involve clubs, Football Australia, Local and Federal Government.

From South Australia alone, girl’s and women’s participation is predicted to increase by 33 per cent over the next three years, which is influenced by how well the Matildas performed.

Funding and investment will be of even more importance going forward, as clubs will be inundated with requests to start playing – as evidenced by Adelaide Comets who shared how their inbox started picking up rapid enquiries.

Following the conclusion of the tournament, this is the precise reminder of why investment is key, to compete with nations such as England who have their well-renowned training facility at St. George’s Park.

Ultimately, Football Australia will have their part to play as all states in Australia seek to capitalise on this golden opportunity.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson has now seen the men’s and women’s national teams do exceptionally well – now is the time to act.

“We warmly welcome the South Australian’s funding commitment – an important investment that underlines the need for collaboration between government and sport in order to address football’s urgent grassroots facility needs,” he said via media release.

“Following the feats of the Subway Socceroos at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, Football Australia has enjoyed a 10% rise in national participation.

“With the historic performances of the CommBank Matildas at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, we anticipate up to an additional 20% leap.

“However, as we grow, so does the pressing need to bridge our facilities gap – a challenge highlighted by our trajectory, which, if not addressed, will compromise the health of our community, and limit positive life experiences for women and girls.

“Our commitment to gender parity and inclusivity remains unwavering. Yet, we cannot overlook the infrastructure challenges our community clubs grapple with daily.

“This is why the South Australian Government’s funding commitment is pivotal. Together with our government partners, and armed with compelling national facility audit insights, we can make smarter, more impactful investments in community football, ensuring a brighter, more inclusive community for every aspiring footballer.”

We are now in a defining chapter of Australian football. If all state and federal governments and councils can get on the same page, we will be in a far better position than we have seen previously.

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